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Resonation Big Band – The Cube, March 29

March 30, 2009

Down the old Gloucester Rd in the other direction for this one. Slipped in a bit late to catch an intriguing ensemble playing new compositions by three Bristol players – Kevin Figes, Jim Blomfield and (new to me) bass player Jeff Spencer.

The band was a 13 piece (16 for Spencer’s new suite), bringing together most of the best players in the city: the sax front line for instance featuring Figes, with James Gardner-Bateman, Josh Arceolo and Ben Waghorn. The music – coming in 25 mins after they got going – was beautifully balanced, rich and satisfying. The writers were obviously having a ball hearing their work performed by such accomplished players, and the atmosphere encouraged everyone to go for it. The bits I heard were fully realised works for large ensemble, nothing earth-shatteringly new but with lots of nice ideas and clever details. Spencer’s three-part contribution wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a Loose Tubes set. OK, it’s 20 years since they played together, but big bands are hard to get together and there are still paths opened there to follow up, perhaps?

Standout players were probably Arceolo and Waghorn, duetting on the first of Spencer’s pieces, and drummer-for-all-occasions Daisy Palmer, ripping through complex scores with her usual aplomb. But it was the ensemble that mattered. Always tantalising to hear such a venture and wonder if it will be a one-off – the last extended set like this which left me with that feeling was from Keith Tippett’s octet at the end of 2007. They have played the music we heard that night once more, I think, but only once.

So hearing this lot in the Cube (and the more I go there, the more I think it a nice space for music), makes me think they ought to get another go. When we have a Bristol Jazz Festival – and now every other city has one, why the hell don’t we, recession notwithstanding: we certainly have the venues for it? – Resonation should be one of the first bands on the list.

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